Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #43 – Guru for Dummies

October 22nd, 2018

There are three tattvas, or subjects, that are very difficult to understand because they deal with the intersection of the spiritual and material realm: dhāma-tattva, śiva-tattva, and guru-tattva. I have an inspiration to simplify the concept of guru-tattva. Therefore I’m calling it “Guru for Dummies”, not because accepting a guru is for those that are not intelligent, but because there is an aspect of guru-tattva that I want to clarify in a simple way, and “for dummies” has become an appropriate appellation when one does that. I especially want to explain why accepting and surrendering to a guru makes sense, although the concept of full surrender, the foundation of accepting a guru, is challenging to accept in the modern age.


Why Guru?


The foundational principle of any worthy life, and certainly spiritual life, is to give up selfishness.


We can be selfless out of love or out of duty.


To be selfless out of love means acting to please someone out of the sole desire to make that person happy.


To act selflessly out of duty means to adhere to a truth or a set of principles that are higher than simply our own desires.


Either out of duty or love, a person of character surrenders to something more important than their own wish or opinion.


The highest demonstration of selflessness and surrender is when one’s love is not exclusive, but instead universal or inclusive of all creation, and when the truth we follow is not relative, but absolute.


The object of universal love and the highest truth is God, that being or consciousness inclusive of everything and the foundation of all truth. To truly surrender to God is to love all of His creation and is thus the epitome of selflessness.


A sincere person who seeks to give up selfishness and serve the Absolute Truth must seek and surrender to the will of God.


The will of God is found in sacred or revealed scriptures.


One who knows and lives those teachings is called guru.


By giving ourselves to the mission of a true guru and submissively learning from them, we thus also imbibe their life of selflessness.



How to Find Guru


The search for guru begins when we finally realize that our self-direction, life after life, has repeatedly brought us only misery, which thus inspires us to deeply pray for a higher truth other than our own selfish desires and opinions.


Hearing our prayer, God then reciprocates with us by sending a person that represents that higher truth. This is a person whose association, guidance, and example inspire in us śraddhā (faith). Śraddhā is the experience of the sublimity of bhakti (devotion) implanted deep in our hearts that gives us the strong conviction in bhakti as the goal of life and also the person and teachings that have given us such faith.


We then test that guru by submitting to his or her guidance, but not fully committing ourselves to that relationship until we are convinced of both that person’s spiritual authority and our connection to him or her as our teacher. If the person whom we follow is not selfless and surrendered to his guru, one’s faith will usually not last. A sincere person can then continue searching until they have found their guru.


When we come to a path or spiritual institution like ISKCON, represented by its founder Śrīla Prabhupāda, we will generally develop our faith first in the founder and his teachings before finding our specific initiating guru. In that case, by studying his teachings and praying to find a person who represents him, we will eventually find our initiating guru. Śrīla Prabhupāda will then remain our śikṣā guru, or main instructing guru.


It may not always be easy to find our guru. Sometimes even people we sincerely take shelter of disappoint us, but Krishna will not cheat us. A sincere person will eventually find his guru.


I guess that it is not so simple after all, and there are so many aspects of guru-tattva that I could not cover. Anyway, I tried to simplify a difficult subject and that’s my attempt at “Guru for Dummies.”[1]


[1] One more thing: While writing this I was sent a very interesting and brilliant article by the late Śrīla B.R. Śrīdhara Mahārāja, which I had read before, that in many ways exemplifies in the most lucid way what is Guru. If you have time I highly recommend it: https://gosai.com/chaitanya/srila_sridhara_mj/sri_guru/sri_guru_intro.html


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